New University aims to be a skills game-changer

Peterborough, like many cities in the UK, faces a perfect storm of skills and labour shortages. A new university is working with a host of partners to bridge these gaps and improve high-value job prospects for local people.

The launch of ARU Peterborough – part of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) – couldn’t be better timed. The city is enjoying a boom in population and jobs, but also languishes in the bottom 10 per cent for skill levels in the country. Local businesses struggle to recruit and companies offering high-value jobs have been discouraged from investing in the area.

In a bid to tackle this skills ‘cold spot’, a number of partners started planning the new University three years ago. They include local employers, the city council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and ARU.

The partnership’s primary aim  is to give local people a ‘step up’ in education and training, and bring wider opportunity and prosperity to the area. The result is a £30 million investment in the new University, currently being built on the site of an old car park at Peterborough Embankment. Known as ARU Peterborough until it gains full independence 

in 2030, it will act as a pipeline for the region’s future workforce and be  led by employer and student demand.

While the University’s doors don’t physically open to its first 2000 students until September 2022, courses are already open for enrolment. And, as already mentioned, there’s a particularly strong emphasis on attracting promising local students who may previously have thought university was out of their reach.

Thus, ARU Peterborough is working closely with its partners and employers to secure placements and ensure graduates have the chance to stay in the region by linking qualifications to jobs.

The University is also teaming up with local companies to develop and deliver a curriculum based on a mix of face-to-face tuition, off-campus degree apprenticeships and work-based learning. Degree apprenticeships are a prominent feature, in direct response to business needs.

Professor Ross Renton, principal of ARU Peterborough, explains: “Part of our key mission is to work with businesses and employers in the city and the region to ensure we support high quality economic growth and maximise opportunities for our students – whether that is through work placements, research projects, providing talks from industry leaders, or future job opportunities.

“It is also vital that we talk to industry to find out what they need from graduates coming out of higher education, so we can ensure these relevant skills are embedded in our teaching.”

The project’s success is all the more remarkable given that most of the groundwork was done during the pandemic. Other than an occasional visit to the site, much has happened virtually –  from procurement to business modelling, course development, recruitment and building design. There can’t be any better testament to the drive and determination of all the stakeholders involved to make their collective vision a reality, and improve the long-term prospects for the people and city of Peterborough.

The first four main areas of study will be:

Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Creative and Digital Arts and Sciences

Agriculture, Environment and Sustainability

Health and Education

More details available at

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